As South Africa’s economic woes continue, many individuals are faced with increased demands and compounding pressure as households and companies alike work to make ends meet. This has caused higher than usual stress levels in the workplace and increased absenteeism, as employees call in sick as a result.

So what happens when you need to take a break, but can’t?

Christo Botes, spokesperson for the 2017 Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS Entrepreneur of the Year competition, says that this is a very real reality for many entrepreneurs – those tirelessly dedicated to building their surrounding communities and broader economy – given that running a business is considered a 24/7 role, with many having no one within their business to lean on for direct support.

“While a rewarding journey, entrepreneurship can also be a lonely, stressful road and can lead to burnout, depression and other stress-related ailments if not managed appropriately,” says Botes.

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He points to the 2016 Profmed Stress Index, which revealed that work is the number one cause of high stress levels in South Africa and that finances are a leading contributor to stress – and a known contributing factor to depression.

“The pressures of keeping a business afloat and ensuring the financial wellbeing of a business and its employees can be overwhelming at the very least for entrepreneurs,” says Botes, adding that in the current marketplace – plagued with low growth, and low business and consumer confidence – it’s not surprising that entrepreneurs can find themselves overwhelmed with stress and emotion.

“There is a psychological side to entrepreneurship which isn’t spoken about as openly and freely as that of encouraging the career path and praising these brave individuals for the role they play in growing an economy. However, increasingly, many well-established entrepreneurs across the globe have begun to speak out about their own battles with depression and stress management, serving as encouragement to others to not feel alone in their experiences,” says Botes.

For entrepreneurs, Botes says that passion and emotion are especially tightly linked.

“As entrepreneurs are driven by the passion they hold for their businesses; it is often difficult to separate this emotion from the pragmatic decisions that must often be taken in a business.”

This being said, Botes says it is important that entrepreneurs separate their emotions from their professional endeavours and make regular efforts to review the business critically and objectively to avoid issues from potentially manifesting into something greater than they have to be.

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“Making time to regularly review the business and acknowledge any potential warning signs – be it in the product model, business model, service offering, reputational and even team members – can ensure that any issues are dealt with as early as possible, and before they develop into larger, more frightening problems that could raise stress levels unnecessarily,” says Botes, who adds that a common mistake many entrepreneurs make is procrastinating over problem-solving out of fear for tackling a problem head-on, for whatever reason.

“Not dealing with issues as they arise, or neglecting to leverage team members and their skills can lead to entrepreneurs feeling trapped and alone within their own business – as though they are employees working within the business, rather than an owner working on the business.”

He explains that this can be dangerous and perpetuate feelings of loneliness and tendencies toward depression – not uncommon for business-owners.

Having someone to talk to, such as a close family member, friend or business mentor is a good option for entrepreneurs to consider to avoid developing such feelings of isolation. “Having someone you trust, that can provide trusted advice when things seem unsettled or overwhelming, can be of huge benefit, and can assist the entrepreneur in successfully moving forward with confidence and level-headedness,” he says.